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Controversial housing plan on Culloden Battlefield conservation area refused

Artist impression of Culchunaig Steading plans.
Artist impression of Culchunaig Steading plans.

Plans to turn a Victorian steading in the Culloden Battlefield conservation area into a family home have been refused by Scottish Government ministers.

The ‘unprecedented’ decision – which overturns approval given by both Highland Council and a Government Reporter who had heard an appeal – has delighted campaigners opposed to development around the historic site.

The ancient steading at Culchunaig, Westhill, is within the Culloden Moor conservation and the Inventory of Historic Battlefields areas.

Councillor Ken Gowans said: “The Scottish Government has made the right decision in this particular instance.

“It underlines the importance of maintaining the integrity of the battlefield and its surrounds for future generations.”

He said it calls into question Historic Environment Scotland’s decision not to object to the original application, which would have provided councillors with a material reason to refuse the application at a much earlier stage.

Mr Gowans added: “This decision will be welcomed nationally and internationally, underlining The importance of Culloden in world history, and I hope this is indicative of the stance that the Scottish Government take regarding future applications in and around the battlefield conservation area.”

The Group to Stop Development at Culloden (GSDC), which campaigned for the government to intervene, was also delighted at the final decision.

A spokesman said: “GSDC takes note of and warmly welcomes the unprecedented decision taken today by Scottish Ministers to refuse planning permission for the house at Culchunaig, located on a hugely sensitive site within Culloden Battlefield.

“A momentous turnaround of events, and one that we sincerely hope marks a new dawn for the protection of the battlefield especially with still four live applications awaiting determination, including a holiday resort.”

Controversial Culloden steading development approved

In its finding, Scottish Ministers said the development, which included three new outbuildings and space for six vehicles, represented an “overdevelopment of the site in what is a very sensitive part of Culloden Battlefield”.

It added: “Ministers consider the redevelopment of this site, as proposed, would have an unacceptable suburbanising effect upon the existing countryside near to the core of Culloden Battlefield.

“Ministers consider that the area has high sensitivity to all types of development due to the national historic significance and cultural associations of the battlefield.

“Ministers consider that the Proposed Development would result in cumulative negative visual and landscape impacts upon the local character of this part of the battlefield and would have an adverse effect on the character and appearance of the Culloden Muir Conservation Area.

“Ministers consider that the Proposed Development would have an adverse impact on the character of the inventory battlefield and would not preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area. Ministers also consider that the Proposed Development is not in accordance with the development plan.”

Professor Christopher Duffy of the Historian’s Council on Culloden said the proposed development had compromised the scene of one of the most significant episodes of the battle of Culloden when a skillful Jacobite countermove foiled the attempt of Lieutenant General Hawley to turn the right flank of the entire Highland Army.”

Both Historic Environment Scotland and National Trust for Scotland had not objected to the plans.

HES had said that the new home would not significantly change the character on this particular location of the battlefield.

NTS said that an upgrade of an existing rundown steading was appropriate as long as a number of historical assessments were carried out.

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